Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Veggies and Trees @ Repotted!

The ladies at Repotted have setup a great educational moment for anyone interested in hearing Andrea Bithell of Oak Cliff Organics will be giving an informative talk on winter veggie transplants that can be set out in January and February, as well as information on what seeds can be started indoors.

The workshop is on January 15th and starts at 11:00 am.

Hope to see you there!


Urban Farming Gets Real

This from American Farmland Trust:

The federal government and a slew of states are pursuing ways to not only officially recognize urban agriculture, but also to allow and promote urban farming activities. The Greening Food Deserts Act would create a Department of Urban Agriculture within the USDA and boost backyard conservation, community gardens and farmers markets. Maryland is leading the way for states with a fast moving bill that provides tax credits for land used for urban agriculture, and legislators in California are getting behind legislation that acknowledges fresh and healthy food as a “basic human right” and promotes opportunities for urban farms stands, farmers markets and direct farmer-to-consumer marketing. Georgia is looking at easing restrictions for private urban food production, Michigan is tying urban agriculture to economic growth and Oklahoma has an urban agriculture bill in play.

This vital organization is helping put urban farming on the map and we need to help our legislators understand this is very important to our community.  Look for more from CGOC on how you can help lobby our representatives in Texas do what is right for sustainable urban agriculture.  Go to Lobbying 101 by the American Farmland Trust for details.

Mushrooms in your garden, whether you know it or not!

Article by Chowgene Koay

Mushrooms are everywhere, and they make their presence known in most environments, whether you know about it or not.

As a matter of fact, everybody on the face of this planet is a mushroom cultivator. Mushroom spores travel through the air currents and are coated on all of our clothing. As we go about our daily activities, these spores travel with us leaving a trail of dust in all the places we have visited.

Welcome to the world of fungi, and this is only the beginning.

In established landscapes, mushrooms integrate all of the plants and trees together by growing around or into the plant’s roots. Dr Simard and a group of graduate students found that “all tress in dry interior Douglas-fir forests are interconnected” by this mycelial network “with the largest, oldest trees serving as hubs.” By growing into the older trees, the mycelium is eventually able to connect to new saplings and transfer nutrients (water, carbon, nitrogen) to these newly forming plants. “This research provides strong evidence that maintaining forest resilience is dependent on conserving mycorrhizal links, and that removal of hub trees could unravel the network and compromise regenerative capacity of the forests.”

The same is true for your garden. The mycelial web becomes more prolific with natural methods of gardening establishing itself slowly into the environment and surrounding plants. Keep in mind that mushroom mycelium, the vegetative part of mushrooms that lives beneath the soil, is one cell wall thick and requires moisture to survive. Digging into the soil can expose it to dry air and foreign competitors causing the mushroom to recede or die. If the mushroom mycelium is able to survive, with time it may fruit and once again release its spores into the air.

Other breeding grounds for mushrooms are the compost, mulch, and leaf piles that we make. With the onset of rain, the mushroom spores begin to germinate and spread through the pile. As we add these elements to our garden, the mushroom mycelium might be introduced to your garden.

Although mushroom spores grow in most conditions, it does not guarantee that mushrooms will successfully grow in your garden. On the other hand, you may be fortunate and see a mushroom grow in your garden. If you are so lucky, be thankful that you have another element in nature that is working with you. If not, don’t be sad. There are ways to introduce them into your garden with ease (these methods will be written at a later date).

Be aware, if you are unfamiliar with mushroom identification and if you are unfamiliar with the environment that they are growing in, do not eat them. Mushrooms can absorb a plethora of pollutants and can be toxic. In 2001, Italian porcini’s that were imported to Japan showed levels of radioactivity from the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Some mushrooms in Eastern Europe contained radiation that was over 20 times the safe level of consumption.

This should not be a cause for concern or fear of them, but an invitation to an adventure.


“Radiation Detected in Mushrooms,” Japan Times November 10, 2001

“Mycorrhizal Networks,” UBC of Forestry March 6, 2010

Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets

Why Organic?

Article by Andrea Bithell

I garden organically for my health, health of the crops,  and the dirt beneath my feet. 

My health

I began eating organically almost four years ago.  Before I started eating organically I was on a variety of medications: nasal steroid, rotating allergy pills, rescue inhaler, pill for upper gastrointestinal (GI) issues, another pill for lower GI issues, and a muscle relaxer when those pills failed, which they did often.  After four years of eating organically I am not on any of those medications!  Eating organically is the only thing that I have changed and can attribute it to.

Health and nutrition of the plant

What are you feeding your crops?  Well, that is exactly what you are eating.  Plants can’t extract minerals from the soil they are planted in if those nutrients are not already present.  That is why I add minerals in my bed prep phase.  Secondly, plants don’t distinguish between good healthy soil with minerals and junk food.  Commercial fertilizers are usually nothing more than salt.  So when you pick your broccoli and eat it, you aren’t getting the nutrients you think.  Nutritionally deficient crops are also more susceptible to disease and bug attacks because they are stressed.

Dirt beneath our feet

And our water source too.  Non-organic methods not only leave our crops nutritionally deficient, but they also pollute our water sources and soil, and cause erosion.  With organic practices you yearly add nutrients into the soil along with compost, and a good 2-inch layer of mulch to keep it all intact.

– Andrea
Oak Cliff Organics

Free Tomato 101 course


It is time to plant tomatoes!

The Texas AgriLife Extension Service has developed “Tomato 101–The Basics of Growing Tomatoes,” a free online course on growing tomatoes.

Topics include:

  • Garden and soil preparation
  • plant selection and training
  • fertilization
  • irrigation
  • weed, disease and insect control
  • general care

Available at:

*A free user account is required for participation.